Pillar Drill Preview

Over the weekend, I got my new pillar drill all cleaned up and ready to run. With the help of “some old man“, I was also able to get it in to position on its new stand – it’s only 2in shorter than my previous drill but, it just seems like a lot more…

Axminster ED16B.

Although I haven’t yet had a chance to put it through its paces yet, I think it would be good at this time to take a closer look at many of this drill’s features and see how it compares and, hopefully, improves on the offerings of my former Clarke CDP201B.

Clarke CDP201B.

(You see it now – it really is too tall for your average 900mm bench!)

Let’s start by taking a look at the table, which possibly is the main feature of this drill that distinguishes it as an “engineering” drill; away from many of the rest:

Along with the four T-slots for attaching hold-down clamps and small vices, there’ s a gutter running around the perimeter for the collection of coolant and swarf when drilling metal. Obviously, when this drill is used for woodworking, those slots are going to fill up with saw dust! I do intend to fit a new MDF table over this but, I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll make one or just buy something from Axminster – for £50, it looks like a great deal. I might have to take a ‘closer look‘, next time I’m down that way… The orientation of T-slots may cause some head-scratching when it comes to bolting it in place, though; whatever I decide to do.

On the underside of the cast iron table is a round spigot that drops directly in to the mounting below, which does mean that this table can pivot, as well as tilt to either side (loosen the large 24mm bolt at the back; there’s a scale to the left). One thing I’ve noticed is that you can lean this table and it won’t budge… The table on my Clarke drill would always begin to tilt slightly – although, the 600mm sheet of 25mm MDF fitted to that machine does increase the leverage, somewhat.

Below the table you have the usual base configuration, as you would expect. I appreciate why these slots are always here but, do woodworkers ever use them?

One of the key factors behind my decision to upgrade was the inclusion of a rack-and-pinion mechanism for the rise-and-fall of the table, on the Axminster machine. Having struggled a bit with the Clarke drill for over four-years; having to manually slide the table up or down with one hand, while using my left-hand to fiddle with the Bristol lever; I now see this kind of feature as essential to anyone looking to purchase a pillar drill – looking at Axminster’s current range, it seems as though they agree.

…Not only on pillar drills, but on bandsaws and table saws as well. In fact, any machine where you may intend to adjust the bed, blade or table to a precise angle other than horizontal. I’d like to include mitre saws in that sentence  as well but, as far a I know, the Festool Kapex is the only saw to feature a rack-and-pinion mechanism to control the tilt of the saw’s head.

Buying my new drill second-hand (and, at such an excellent price!) meant that it might be missing one or two pieces. Along with the rise-and-fall handle itself (which I also picked up on Friday), something we both missed was the omission of a collar to sit above rack-and-pinion track beside the column and to keep it firm in place as you lower the table (otherwise, it rises). In order to avoid another aimless trip to Axminster or, the postage cost otherwise, I realised I could use the hose clamp of my Drill Tidy to achieve the same result (as in the photo above). 😉

Another excellent feature of this model is the addition of a light, which screws in place and illuminates the working areas from behind the chuck (it would nice to have this feature as-standard on several other woodworking machines…):

It’s operated by a simple ‘rocker‘ switch, just above the main NVR for operating the drill. One thing I have noticed is that raising the cover of the No-Volt switch also simultaneously switches the light off – that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you’re energy-concious! 😀

Another shot of the light in action, where you can also see the style of handle fitted to this machine. I find this more comfortable that the one fitted to my Clarke drill but, aside from that, I couldn’t say that this alone makes the drill “better”, in terms of performance. Perhaps time will tell another story, once I’ve had a chance to break it all in…

There’s currently only one feature that I’m a little unsure of, and that’s the depth stop. Although it looks sturdy and reliable, it’s also more awkward to set than the other setup on the Clarke drill. So far, I’ve found that the easiest way to set the depth for stopped or shallow holes it to use a spacer or setting gauge – as I’ve demonstrated in the photo below, using a scrap of 12mm MDF (I do this often with my routers):

One the Clarke, it was simply a case of slackening off this screw and rotating the collar until the pointer lined up with the desired marking on the scale, which was always pretty accurate. It was fast and pretty reliable, provided you didn’t plunge down too hard at the end of a cut:

Another key feature that convinced me this was an ‘essential‘ purchase was the inclusion of a keyless chuck (now standard on most of Axminster’s drills). Having used drills with these at college, I swear that I am never going back to a keyed system again! 😉

At one point, I considered upgrading the keyed chuck on my Clarke drill for one like this. Machine Mart sell a “cheap” model at around £30. After that, you’re looking at £40 for a better-quality chuck with 13mm capacity, or £45 for one that’ll take a bit with a 16mm diameter shank. As I’ve already spent another £20 on rubber-sealed bearings and new V-belts to ‘refurbish‘ that drill ready for sale, I decided I would leave that decision for the buyer. Having that little extra bit of capacity does come in handy but, at the same time, a 16mm-capacity chuck won’t take a drill bit less than 3mm in diameter, as I discovered last night. One of the simplest solutions – besides keeping a secondary 13mm chuck and swapping between the two – is to purchase a Pin Chuck, which fits inside the larger one as any ordinary drill bit would (yep, another one added to the shopping list!).

Just as with most other twelve-speed drills these days, the method for tensioning the V-belts consists of a lever that slides the motor pulley away from the rear of the unit, with one locking knob either side of the head to lock the setting:

Underneath the top cover, you have the fairly standard array of three pulleys. What I always like to see (on modern drills, at least) is a simple chart that tells you the necessary configurations for each of the twelve speed settings:

Now, as standard with this model, the hinged lid is secured in place by a machine screw which is driven directly in to a threaded-hole located in the tab below. I appreciate the Health & Safety requirements, here, where by the regulations now stipulate that all doors and access covers on machinery must be tool-operated, so that they cannot easily be opened while the motor is running down. I still find this to be very time consuming, even though, my average uses don’t require me to alter the speeds very often.

To make life a little bit easier (and, so this is more akin to my Clarke drill), I’ve fitted a nut on either to withdraw the machine screw’s thread enough so that locates with the tab in a way that finger pressure is enough to release the lock (no tools required). Given some more time, I may even make a proper ‘thumb-hold’ in place of the screw head.

Just in case you’re wondering, there’s no risk of starting the motor with the drive-belts and pulleys exposed, thanks to a common interlock safety switch; an essential requirement as found on many forms of machinery.

That just about concludes all I have to say on my new drill, so far. It’s certainly a tool I’ll be hanging on to for the foreseeable future, along with all other machines I’ve bought within the last twelve-months. While it currently sits on its own mobile cabinet, I’d like to get it up on a bench alongside the mortiser, next time I’m able to rearrange the workshop layout. Where the Clarke was definitely too tall for this, I believe my new drill could be better suited, even though it’s only 50mm shorter. I may also need to consider purchasing some new, better-quality forstner bits, as the cheap (blunt!) Silverline-branded bits I’ve been using aren’t able to keep up with the higher speeds and build quality of this new drill.

There’s still the question as to what I’m going to do about the new table…

The old one (which I’ll be giving away with the Clarke drill), measured 600mm x 450mm, meaning it’s a good 150mm wider than the reasonably-priced table Axminster are selling. Thinking about it, I’m not even sure it needs to be as wide as it was before, given that I rarely work with timber any wider than 200mm. Where I routed my own slots and used Bristol levers to locate the fence on the table; next time, I’ll either fit an aluminium T-track or just use G-cramps, as this arrangement was too time-consuming when I needed to remove the fence.

And then, there’s the old disposable table insert. Is is better to keep it square, like this? Should it circular, so you can rotate it with each new cut? Perhaps I should keep it square but offset it from the centre, so I’m only working with one corner at a time.

Thanks for reading.

One thought on “Pillar Drill Preview

  1. Square inserts are easier to cut replacements for. As you mentioned, off-set the insert and you can rotate it around four times (or eight, even, if you flip it, as well!) before you have to replace it.

    For some reason, I’ve never been bothered by my keyed chuck on my drill press. I have some of both (keyed and keyless) in my shop. My eggbeaters (obviously) and my lone lithium-ion battery drill are all keyless. But my drill press (circa 1950’s Rockwell benchtop model) and my corded drill (so I don’t burn out my cordless when driving bolts or drilling into concrete or what have you) are both keyed chucks. Maybe it is because I like the sense of security I get from tightening all three positions of the keyed chuck to make sure the bit is nice and secure…

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